Monthly Archives: October 2015

Addyi: Is it safe and should I consider taking it?

The new pink Viagra, known as Addyi or flibanserin, was recently released. Is it safe? Should you take it? Why is it not at all what the pharmaceutical companies are claiming? Learn more about this dangerous drug and what you can do instead if your libido is suffering.

I’ve always been the fat kid. Rather, I’ve always seen myself that way.

Looking at pictures of myself in elementary and middle school, I was taller, thicker, and stronger than most of the girls my age, but in a very athletic way. Still, I’ve spent my entire life feeling like I was fat, which until fairly recently equated to feeling unwanted, undesirable, unlovable, and a host of other inferior things.

When I was in high school and college (and even now, on bad days), I would comfort myself with this fantasy of a mystical being granting me “the perfect body”.

This fantasy was beautifully alluring because instead of learning to appreciate what I had, instead of loving myself in the moment, I could pretend it all away by taking a magic pill that turned my body into that of Sofia Vergara or Jennifer Lawrence.

Of course, the assumption being if I had a body like theirs all of my problems would be solved.

*poof*

The truth is that while these fantasies allowed me to escape the pain I was experiencing in that moment, they caused me so much more harm in the long run.

I spent countless hours wishing for magic instead of using all of that time to embrace myself, to find ways to love myself, to nurture myself, to appreciate my body, or to simply be present in my life and find a way to navigate my truth.

Everything around me, even “inspiring” magazines like O Magazine, shouted at me to lose weight, to shed 10 pounds, to find clothes that “flattered” my shape, that cast the fat girl as the sidekick (because who could actually want someone fat?).

By trapping myself in an unrealistic dream, largely defined by forces outside of myself, I was feeding my shame and self-loathing.

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how to undo some of that damage. But now I’m much better at looking inside of myself for the answers, even if they contradict all of the messages around me.

So, what does wishing for a magical cure to be skinny have to do with Addyi, the new female arousal drug that’s been called the pink Viagra?

A lot more than you would think.

The fact is that most women in committed, long-term relationships are under the impression that they should be wanting more sex without understanding exactly how desire works. Our world is conditioning us to feel like we are broken when it comes to our desire for sex.

In fact, even though Addyi has only been on the market a few days, one woman has already told me her doctor is pushing her to try it, and that breaks my heart.

Addyi is being touted as the magic pill that “fixes” arousal, when the truth of the matter is the pill doesn’t do what it claims AND 99.9% of the time nothing is actually broken.

There is a lot to say about Addyi and women’s desire. Enough to fill a book (which is exactly what Emily Nagoski did with her AMAZING book “Come As You Are”), so this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What is Addyi? How does it work? Are there any dangers that come with taking it? (Yes!) And, if you’re considering Addyi, what can you do instead? Let’s take a look.

Addyi: the not-so-good, the bad, and the ugly

When you think about Viagra, you probably get a pretty vivid picture of a guy taking a pill and suddenly finding himself rock hard. Of course, the assumption is that a hard penis equals wanting to have sex (but we know that isn’t the case at all – just because your body is doing one thing, doesn’t mean your mind is on board).

Basically, Viagra forces a physical response of rushing blood to the erectile tissue and creating an erect cock.

Addyi does not do this. It does not force blood to erectile tissue, it does not cause your vulva to swell with blood or your vagina to lubricate itself with more gusto.

According to Georgetown University Medical Center, Addyi – original name of flibanserin – “failed efficacy trials as an antidepressant and was rejected twice for its current indication before being approved.”

Instead of targeting your genitals, Addyi affects your brain’s chemicals: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Why? Because Addyi is a rebranded antidepressant.

Let’s take a look at a few things that we all need to be aware of:

  • Unlike Viagra, which you take only when you want a hard penis, Addyi must be taken every single day.
  • People in the studies experienced higher rates of fatigue, sedation, unconsciousness, hypotension, and it interacts poorly with many medications, including oral contraceptives.
  • If you take Addyi, you cannot consume alcohol. Since Addyi is a daily pill, that means no alcohol consumption until you decide to go off of Addyi.
  • Your physician is responsible for prescribing Addyi, however, only a sex therapist/professional would know whether Addyi is appropriate for a patient. Physicians do not receive sex education training in medical school (it’s an elective even for gynecologists, which means many gyn’s can opt out of sex education in med school).
  • Speaking of physicians, doctors are receiving seven slides’ worth of training on Addyi. This means most doctors will be woefully under-informed about the risks, side effects, and limited benefits when they prescribe it.

 

Is all of this a problem if it really does help women to experience improved desire for sex?

Sadly, based on the trials, Addyi doesn’t appear to have much of an impact on patients.

Before we dive into that, let’s consider one thing.

“Hypoactive sexual desire disorder was recently dropped from the latest edition of the DSM-5. Disorders of desire and arousal have now been combined in the term ‘female sexual interest/arousal disorder’ (FSI/AD), which takes into account the fact that for many women, desire follows rather than precedes arousal.”

That quote comes from a fact sheet put together by Georgetown University Medical Center. You can see it here.

What that means is the American Psychiatric Association now recognizes that women’s desire is much more nuanced and complex than was previously thought. Back in the old days, the baseline for human sexual desire was that of 18-22 year old males. That was considered “normal” for all of us, regardless of gender, age, race, health, etc.

As a result, women were often considered lacking when it came to sexual arousal and desire – simply because they weren’t experiencing it as spontaneously and as often as young men.

Now, most mental health professionals and sex professionals recognize that our desire is actually much more dependent on context.

And so they removed “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” from the manual. But Addyi’s instructions says it treats “hypoactive sexual desire disorder” – in other words, this medicine claims to treat something that doesn’t even exist anymore.

So, what were the actual results from the flibanserin (Addyi) trials?

Women reported 0.7 more satisfying sexual events per month than women on the placebo.

Less than one. In a month.

Some experts are attributing that small increase to something else, though. The participants were asked to journal about their sexual satisfaction and sexual experiences. By simply placing a higher emphasis on thinking about sex and prioritizing it, it’s no wonder participants experienced a small bump – where your attention goes, energy flows.

What does all of this mean to you?

Addyi may offer a slight improvement in sexual satisfaction for pre-menopausal women who have had a sudden, steep decrease in sexual enjoyment.

However, due to the potential side effects, the possible drug interactions, and the lack of long-term studies on this repurposed pill, most sex professionals are strongly discouraging use.

We do expect more doctors to begin pushing patients to use this drug, but as consumers, we need to be willing to push back.

Desire is a beautiful, complex, tender beast.

If you’re truly struggling with a lack of sexual enjoyment or sexual desire, find a sex positive sex coach, sex therapist, or sex educator to help you explore and navigate what that means.

Often I find that clients are under the impression that they’re broken or that they should want sex more, but when we dig under those beliefs, we find so many other truths.

As you begin redefining sex in a way that fits with your life and your desire, without all of that noise from the outside, you set yourself up for a lifetime of sexual awareness and empowerment.

Instead of wishing for a magic pill to fix you, if you give yourself permission to begin accepting what is, exploring the beauty within, and creating something meaningful for yourself, you’ll find so much more pleasure and desire in the long run.

My advice? Avoid Addyi entirely.

Instead, unpack your sexual experience with the help of a professional. Roll around in your fantasies. Say the scary stuff. Confront the parts of your life that aren’t lifting you up. Do the work that unleashes your sexual self.

[callout title=”Work with me” link=”http://www.dawnserra.com/work-with-me/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]If you’re considering Addyi or you’re ready to explore your own desire, I’m here to help. [/callout]

1 Healthy relationships & sex: One skill to rule them all

Sex coach Dawn Serra talks about the one skill that can help create healthy relationships, great sex, and even a better life for yourself. What is it? Find out in this week's blog post.

People like to dismiss the thing that is simple in favor of the thing that is more complex and validating.

Why?

Sometimes we just aren’t ready to change, and if the answer is simple, we’ll look for any way to avoid actually solving the problem because change is scary.

Sometimes knowing that the thing we’ve been struggling with for weeks, months, or even years had a simple solution makes us feel foolish or ordinary. And we like feeling like our pain is unique and important.

Of course, simple does not mean easy, and sometimes that frustration can make us want to find another way.

Most of our relationship and sex problems stem from three things: assumptions, beliefs, and expectations.

The single most powerful skill that I’ve found that invites a healthy relationship and a sexy connection is curiosity.

Curiosity fosters openness and allows us to let go of those unhealthy behaviors that can keep us stuck. This is true of friendships, love, sex, business, family, and even your own inner thoughts.

We are a world built on labels, rules, and expectations.

While rituals and frameworks do lend a certain efficiency and stability to our lives, too often we cling desperately to the “supposed to” and the “should” or we remain rigid in the face of new information, unwilling to change a belief because it’s too uncomfortable or scary.

After all, being right gives us a sense that we have some control in this world.

If you can’t be right, what can you hold on to?

Let’s take a closer look at how curiosity can strengthen and heal your relationship with yourself, with a partner, and with sex.

The path to inner peace and self-awareness is paved with curiosity.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

I am famous for beating myself up. The perfectionist in me is loud and bossy. The mean girl inside loves telling me all the ways I’m not good enough, especially if I make a mistake with someone I love.

For years, I lived a life that wasn’t what I wanted because I believed I didn’t deserve more – who could love me in this fat body with all these flaws? I settled, over and over again.

Our internal dialog creates the life we live. Our thoughts and feelings birth the experience we have. That’s why when we’re caught in anxiety or worry or a shame spiral, things can feel so utterly bleak.

One of the most powerful tools I’ve learned is that of mindful curiosity.

When I react to something, instead of beating myself up for my reaction, if I invite honest, open curiosity about my response, I’ll usually find a powerful truth hidden under the feelings.

This kind self-inquiry means you can tap into your real needs and emotions a lot faster than if you force, criticize, and insult yourself.

It’s also really powerful to use this kind of open, honesty curiosity when you want to release old thought patterns or change a habit.

Imagine you come home after a long day to a filthy house and your partner is sitting on the couch watching TV. You completely clam up and stomp around the house silently fuming. Each thing that isn’t done makes you more angry.

How would this moment be transformed if you caught yourself, took a deep breath, and then got curious.

Why am I so angry?

Because you-know-who couldn’t be bothered to help around the damn house.

Why does this bother me so much?

Because I’m exhausted. I had a long day and I just cannot relax if the house looks like this. It’s gross.

What can I do to let go of this anger so that I can try to relax a little tonight?

I could talk to my partner and ask for help instead of punishing myself and being passive aggressive.

What can I do to make myself feel better right now?

Take a deep breath and pause for a moment.

Real curiosity isn’t manipulative, assumptive, or dishonest.

It takes honesty, vulnerability, and openness to be curious which is why it’s such a magnificent tool. If you aren’t tied to an outcome, you invite flexibility and space for a real experience to happen.

Wouldn’t a little more space in your thoughts feel luxurious?

When you’re curious about your partner, you create an invitation for connection rather than building a wall of assumption.

“Curiosity begets love. It weds us to the world. It’s part of our perverse, madcap love for this impossible planet we inhabit. People die when curiosity goes.” Graham Swift

Having a routine means things can run more smoothly when days get busy and you’re short on time. But sometimes routine means putting your partner into a box where you assume you know what they want, what they’re thinking, and what they’ll say in response to you.

When your partner no longer has any mystery, they become two-dimensional. There’s no spark, no sense of other, which is critical for desire.

And when your partner doesn’t behave in a way you expect or want, it can be so easy to get frustrated with them. Making demands of each other and assuming your partner will always stay the same is a recipe for disaster.

So, what if, instead, you both approached each other with curiosity?

Because we all want to feel seen, heard, and valued. When our partners start to take us for granted we start to feel invisible inside of our relationship, even lonely.

How might curiosity help us through a situation that would normally lead to an argument or hurt feelings?

Let’s imagine you buy a new outfit or get a new haircut or do something special around the house and your partner doesn’t even notice. What’s your first reaction? Frustration? Disappointment? Feeling like they just don’t see you or want you anymore? Maybe even anger, if you’ve told them how important this stuff is to you?

What if instead, you pause and get curious?

Wow. I was hoping they’d notice my new haircut. Why do I feel so disappointed?

Because I think I look really nice, and I thought they would, too.

What can I do to appreciate myself and enjoy this feeling of my fresh haircut anyway?

Maybe take some selfies and post them on Facebook. I know my sister will love this look.

What can I ask my partner that would engage them in this moment?

Maybe we can play the appreciation game or let them know I got a haircut and I’d love to show it off for them.

When you get curious, you allow space for your partner to have their own set of experiences and you realize they can’t read your mind. Curiosity means approaching each other with mindfulness.

Instead of assuming your partner wants the same thing for dinner again or the same kind of sex or that their day was the same as yesterday, getting curious shows your partner that they matter, that you care about their feelings and experiences, and that you’re showing up for them.

Sometimes we have to show up a few times before our partners realize we mean it, especially if they’ve felt invisible or unheard for a long time.

Often when you model openness and vulnerability, it creates space where the people in our lives can slowly begin to do the same.

This same curious approach is great with children and family members, too. Instead of yelling at your kids for doing that thing you’ve told them not to do, if you get curious and engage them in a conversation, digging into the why and the how, you may discover something new.

And nothing feels better than having someone who really wants to show up and listen to you, right?

Curiosity does take time and it takes self-awareness. That’s why it’s so powerful.

When you and your partner both feel important and autonomous, like it’s safe to have your own experiences and feelings, that’s when you can thrive together rather than drift apart.

Sex is an adventure, and an adventure requires a curious spirit and a willingness to explore the unknown, otherwise you end up lost or never going anywhere.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.” Dorothy Parker

Sex is often one of the first things that gets stale in a relationship. There are many reasons for this: we aren’t taught how to navigate sexual conversations, we are never told all of the amazing options available to us when it comes to sex, we can be too tied up in what’s normal or what we’re supposed to do instead of what would feel good, and prioritizing our pleasure can feel selfish when there are so many other things to be doing.

Even sadder than that, for many of us, we’ve never had truly spectacular sex, so it can feel like something we do out of obligation rather than for the sheer joy of it.

People are so scared of saying the wrong thing, or of being rejected by a partner, or we’re ashamed of what we don’t know or secretly want.

Add to that the societal roles that tell us women shouldn’t be too aggressive or slutty (or frigid, for that matter) and men should know how to please a woman and always get hard, and it’s a mine field with any number of bombs just waiting to go off.

Curiosity in bed can transform you from an awkward or stale lover into a spectacular lover overnight.

What happens if you ask to see how your partner likes to touch themselves and try to mirror it?

What if you try a new position or a new toy and then have an after action report where you laugh and share all the wonderful and disastrous ways it totally worked or totally didn’t?

What could change if you ask your partner if they’d be willing to try exploring you in a different way that you think might feel good?

When you hold genuine curiosity about your partner’s needs, wants, and desires and get curious about your own body and experiences, everything changes.

It’s not about getting anything right. It’s this big curious experiment where no matter the outcome, you tried something new and have new ways to talk about sex.

Curiosity allows your ego to take a back seat while your child-like wonderment can come out to play.

Sex from a place of play is so much more fun than sex from a place of dread, guilt, or shame.

So, what can you get curious about in the bedroom? How can you explore your own body and needs in a new way? How can you connect with your partner in a way you never have before? What is something new you could try that would invite a sense of play?

It’s time to let go of old ideas, patterns, assumptions, and expectations.

Adopt a mindset of curiosity in all things and experience the honesty, vulnerability, and openness that it invites into your life.

[callout title=”Work with me” link=”http://www.dawnserra.com/work-with-me/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]Do you need help tapping into your sexy self? Are you feeling stuck in the bedroom? I’m here to help. It’s what I do. [/callout]

 

8 Strap-on sex: It’s fun for everyone!

Despite popular assumption, strap-on harnesses and strap-on sex isn't just for lesbians or queer folks. Strap-ons can be a fun addition to any bedroom in any relationship dynamic with any kind of body. Find out how with sex coach Dawn Serra.

The first time I was with a lover who used a strap-on harness, they pulled out a tangle of leather straps, unzipped their goodie bag and showed me three different toys to choose from. Short and thin, long and thick, and something in the middle. I felt like Goldilocks, trying to find a porridge that was just right for me.

Thanks to brave and pioneering shows like The L Word, and more recently Orange is the New Black and Sense8, most people associate strap-on harnesses with lesbian and queer sex. I know I certainly did in my lesbian and trans relationships.

After all, what could a straight couple possibly want with a strap-on harness? It turns out, a lot!

But, that’s part of the fun when it comes to sex – there’s always something new to learn or try. Sex, like life, is a never-ending journey, full of as many adventures as you’d like it to be.

So, we’re going to talk about strap-on harnesses and why you may want to explore one in your own sex life, if you haven’t already.

Strap-on 101: What is a harness?

Harnesses are devices built to hold certain types of dildos or vibrators. They can be worn for sex, for fashion, for your gender expression, or for performance (like the sexy drag kings I used to worship).

There are harnesses you wear like underwear in a variety of styles from g-string thongs to corset-laced hip huggers, harnesses that look like boxer briefs, harnesses you strap around your thigh, and even harnesses you wear on your hand or your chin.

Harnesses come in so many styles, there’s something for everyone these days. Red satin, black studded leather, feminine, masculine, utilitarian. You name it, it’s been made for you.

Most people think of harnesses as being a series of leather straps that wrap around your legs and waist, but my favorite harnesses are made by SpareParts. Their harnesses are washable, soft, sturdy, very comfortable, and most come in sizes up to 3X or 4X, which is perfect for larger bodies.

Harnesses are amazing for folks with varying abilities and bodies, too.

Imagine the power in being able to please a lover using a hand harness if you don’t have mobility below the waist or a thigh harness if you have big belly.

But, if you’re able-bodied and heterosexual, why would strap-on sex ever be something you’d want to explore?

One of the most common questions I get as a sex educator is about pegging.

What is pegging, you ask?

Pegging is when a woman uses a strap-on to perform anal sex on a male partner.

Why would that be fun to try? Let us count the ways:

  • If your partner has a prostate, anal stimulation can lead to other-worldly orgasms. If you’re curious about just how epic, check out Cooper Beckett’s piece on his hour-long prostate orgasm. Wow! Imagine being the person to give that kind of orgasm to a partner.
  • For folks with a penis, sex tends to always happen outside of the body. It’s an external experience. Something magical can happen when sex becomes an activity that happens inside of you. You do NOT want to miss this Charlie Glickman piece on why the world would be a better place if more men took it up the ass.
  • For the strap-on wearer, you find yourself in a position of power. You get to try new muscles – literally and figuratively. You get to take that penetrating energy you probably usually receive and flip it on its head. Now you’re doing the penetrating. Now it’s your energy, your power being used to enter your partner. It’s a lovely way to flip the script on sex.

 

Pegging can be beautifully bonding. If you’re in a heterosexual relationship, pegging launches you into new territory where you get to practice your communication skills and take on different roles. It can be invigorating and enchanting.

But do expect it to be a little awkward the first few times. From finding a toy that’s a size you both like to learning how to thrust just so, learning a new skill can take practice. Be patient with each other, and use loads of lube. When in doubt, add more lube.

(Don’t worry about pegging being gross, either. As long as everyone showers ahead of time, and you slap a condom on the dildo, there’s not a whole lot you’ll need to worry about as far as clean-up goes. But we’ll cover more anal basics in another post.)

And no, anal sex and anal penetration is not about being gay in any way, unless you want it to be. Our anus is loaded with tons of nerve endings, so anal stimulation can feel absolutely incredible. Pleasure does not determine your sexual orientation.

Double penetration: table for two.

I don’t know about you, but most double penetration (DP) scenes that I’ve seen involves three people – the receiver and two penetrators.

But what if you’re not into threesomes? What if you don’t have an open relationship? Is there still a way?

Yes! Thanks to harnesses like the SpareParts Deuce or Sportsheets Menage a Trois, your partner can either use their penis in one hole and add a dildo to the second or put two dildos in the harness and go to town.

Some people may consider this varsity level play time, but it’s still fun to know it’s an option for you.

Breaking the taboo – men can wear a harness, too.

As a society, we place a tremendous amount of importance on whether someone’s penis can get hard and stay hard. It’s a sign of masculinity, of value, of power, and when your penis doesn’t perform the way you’d like it to, it can feel devastating, embarrassing, and like you have less worth in bed and as a person.

That stress, of course, makes getting hard even more difficult. Stress is the fastest libido killer in the world.

So, what if it wasn’t a big deal if a penis isn’t cooperating? What if it was a tiny piece of a much larger, much sexier puzzle?

The good news is it doesn’t have to be a show stopper when a penis goes soft – from hands and mouths to toys and shower heads, there are dozens of ways to please a partner without the use of a hard cock.

But, when you bring a strap-on harness into the mix, things get even more interesting.

Maybe you like experimenting with different sized insertables.

Maybe you like fantasizing you’re playing with lots of different people by having your partner swap out various toys.

Maybe your partner’s body just doesn’t feel like getting hard, but both of you want to have penetrative sex. Strap-on and go to town.

There are countless uses for a strap-on harness, even if you have a penis that gets erect. It’s not about being broken. It’s about being open to possibilities.

When you frame a harness as just another way to add pleasure to the mix, it becomes less about a person’s body and what it’s capable of and more about having permission to feel good and have fun.

One of the most amazing things about sex is that there is no right way to do it. It’s an endless sea of possibilities and discoveries.

As long as you and your partner(s) are focused on maximizing pleasure rather than following a script laid out by someone else, there is no shame in trying things even if they run counter to our cultural stories and expectations.

So, what are you waiting for? Strap-on and have fun!

PS – I do sell the SpareParts harnesses and accompanying toys. If you’d like to learn more, just shoot me a message and I’m happy to hop on a call to discuss the options, sizing, and how to introduce them into the bedroom.